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Famine drama focuses on fascinating figure

Going Out

STARRING ROLE Actress Carmel Tuffy, Ballina Dramatic Society, plays  Asenath Nicholson. She is pictured here holding a copy of Nicholson’s Irish travelogue ‘Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger’ (New York, 1847), a rare copy of which is housed at the Jackie Clarke Collection in Ballina.

In association with Keepsaketheatre, Ballina Dramatic Society will stage ‘Welcome to the Stranger’, at Ballina Arts Centre this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 11, 12 and 13, and then at Westport Town Hall Theatre on Friday, April 19.
Described by journalist Eoghan Harris as a drama ‘that draws you gently and with grim humour into the lived experience of the Famine’, ‘Welcome to the Stranger’ recounts the extraordinary journey of an American woman, Asenath Nicholson, who witnessed the ravages of the Famine in Mayo and left an unflinching account of her experience in the form of her book, ‘Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger’ – in which she recounts her travels in Ireland in 1844 and 1845, on the eve of the Great Famine.
Sailing from New York, she set out to  personally investigate the condition of the Irish poor and discover why so many were emigrating from Ireland to her country. She later returned to Ireland in 1847-49 to help with famine relief, recording those experiences in the rather harrowing ‘Annals of the Famine in Ireland’.
Featuring 19 local actors aged from seven to 70, written by Rua Breathnach and directed by Belgian Rémi Beelprez, ‘Welcome to the Stranger’ is an epic play that casts new light on of the most traumatic events in modern Irish history.

Tickets €12. Suitable for children aged seven and over. All performances start at 8pm.